It didn’t last. That evening, or rather morning, at about 12:30 a.m. I could hear the guard’s keys at the door. In stepped my new bunky with his bedroll. I didn’t even acknowledge him. I was too sleepy and too resentful. I had gotten use to being alone in just that short amount of time. I rolled the other way, my face to the wall, feigning sleep, but listening to his every move. I didn’t want to be rude, but I was in no mood to be chatty either. I didn’t want to encourage him at that time of night.
In an instant the air was sucked out of the room. For a moment, I imagined myself short of breath. A deep inspiration followed and to be honest I anticipated the anxiety that never came. Cells are small and I had gotten quite used to the extra space in less than a day or so. The integration of this new person cut the space in half, just like that.
I lay there for the next few hours listening to my new bunky’s labored breathing, and tossing and turning as he fought to find some comfort in his new bed. “Funny noises,” I thought to myself, “But at least there is no snoring.” There was the occasional choking and apnea, but even this was tolerable compared to the two previous high decibels, room vibrating, snorers I had lived with..
Before I knew it – I did not hear her coming – the nurse was at my door for morning meds. It was 0400 a.m. After our transaction was completed; digoxin, atenolol, and allopurinal, I turned to enter the cell and my new bunky spoke from under his covers, “I think I got court today or tomorrow.”
“Good luck,” I said, and finished my cup of water.
Breakfast followed quickly and we both dressed on our beds, and headed for the day room to pick up our trays. With the light on, I took a good look at him. He was about six feet tall, wirery, and with weather-beaten skin that suggested he had lived without much insulation from the elements. His face was sensitive looking, very far from attractive, his features suggesting a hint of mental retardation. His class III malocclusion explained the prominence of his chin – and possibly his speech impediment – and the few teeth in his mouth, all of which needed repair, explained the subsequent difficulty he had in eating.
Watching him gum his eggs and potatoes were too much to ask. “What was it with these guys and their teeth?” I thought. I’m completely neurotic about oral hygiene – as I said before I’d resorted to using loose thread from my prison trousers as floss – but this was unbelievable.
We didn’t talk much at breakfast but I have to admit that once you got past the look – accentuated by the way by a balding head with stringy, thinned, unkempt hair which hung to his shoulders – he proved to be quite an agreeable fellow. He was polite and considerate, and actually took the courtesy to shake hands. His hands, though, had the feel of wood and the look of years of abuse with deformed knuckles and calluses, a lot of calluses, even on the back of his hand.
When he finished his breakfast, he suggested that he would return the dinner trays if I did the breakfast ones. I agreed and he climbed back to the top bunk. After delivering the trays I returned to the cell, turned off the lights, thought about exercising, and quickly dismissed it as I climbed under the covers into bed.
An hour later the announcement came over the intercom. “…You have court today so get ready, the bus will be leaving soon.” I didn’t get his name, and had yet to ask him, but I knew she wasn’t talking to me. I rolled over, he climbed from bed, the door buzzed and he was gone.
An hour or so later, I got up when the upper tier came down for their “unlock”. They serve as an excellent alarm clock. I got up, did some pushups and when their “unlock” was over and ours began, I cleaned the cell – including mopping the floor – and showered.
The return to the cell after unlock was wonderful. The room was clean. I was clean. And the only thing waiting there was silence. I quickly got out some reading material and settled in. A short time later lunch was delivered and now I looked forward to five or six hours of silence.
That, however, was not to be, as my bunky returned earlier than I had anticipated; and he was looking to have a conversation. The judge had released him with “time served”. Apparently, Larry, that’s my bunky’s name, Larry Duane, was on parole. He was riding a bicycle when an officer recognized him and pulled him over; a routine search produced drug paraphernalia and that is what landed him back in jail. He knew he had been lucky to get off with time served, but he was particularlt concerned about having four more years of probation.
It didn’t take long before he was “bouncing off the walls”. He was understandably ready to go and his speech was starting to sound pressured and getting louder. Larry was living on the streets. Somewhere near the railroad tracks – which of course I don’t have a clue – is his camp site. He tells me he has wicker furniture, an Oriental rug, and a cooler of beer waiting on him. He says that sometimes he sits on his wicker sofa, puts his feet up on the cooler, drinks a nice cold one and everything is all right.
He dreams of saving enough money to buy a motorbike and just travel. All I can say is look out, ladies. His one wish now is to put his cowboy boots back on. When he goes out on the town, he spray paints them so they look new. Necessity is the mother of invention.
Before he was transferred to my suite, Larry had spent a lot of time talking with Superfly in the day room when he was here. It seems Superfly was in here for attempted robbery – at the mall – and because he had a pocket knife it got kicked up to armed robbery. But here’s the thing. Why or better yet how, would you attempt a robbery if you’re paralyzed on one side? Think of it; he can’t run away. It’s painful to watch him drag his leg and arm around in the day room. I, for the life of me, can’t imagine him trying to make it out of the mall. It’s almost comical, and would be, if it wasn’t that it was for real.
It’s hard watching these people going out the door daily, and not being one of them. I’ve been here more than five months, and hopefully the end is near, but right now, no one can seem to tell me when I might get out. To be honest, though, except for when it’s pushed in my face, it’s something that I have come to never think about: everything for me is right here, right now. Make no doubt about it, it’s foreign to me, and a horrible way to live – not setting goals and not making plans to get there – but if I start counting days I’ll make myself nuts. The fact is, from my perspective, I came in here yesterday, and when I leave that’s exactly how I’m going to treat it. I’m just going to pick up where I left off and keep moving forward. Realistically that’s all you can do. I’ll never let these people make me feel like a victim, or a criminal. I’ll admit to a mistake. I’ve paid my debt. That’s it.
But for right now, I’m just watching Larry pace. I’m sure the guards are in no hurry to accommodate him, but at a certain level, it’s just plain mean. They know he’s waiting to be released, and the attitude that “I’ll get to it when I get to it” is just mean. So I listen to his concerns – especially those about probation and parole obligations – and I try to help him keep his mind off the fact that the judge has released him, but the Solano County Jail has not.
Then, it quickly came as a voice over the intercom: “LK…get your roll, it’s time to go.” We shook hands, I wished him the best.